The Hidden Dangers of DIY LPAs
Posted on 23 April 2019
Have you ever considered creating a legal document by yourself? Many people who consider going down this route cite lower financial costs as the main reason why. Yet whilst costs can indeed appear cheaper, there are a number of dangers in creating a DIY legal document, particularly one as important as an LPA, that can lead to further costs down the line and not just financial ones.
There is a growing market for DIY legal forms and online ‘kits’ that allow people to create legally binding documents themselves, without the involvement of a solicitor. However, doing so can open you up to a great deal of risk, according to study recently varied out by the Solicitors For the Elderly.
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a powerful legal document. It allows a person to choose one or more individuals (or ‘attorneys’) to handle their affairs in the event that they can no longer do so themselves, for example if they lose mental capacity. As such, an LPA is an extremely important document with serious implications for all involved.
Attorneys are able to make important decisions on a number of areas involving the property, money, medical treatment and end of life wishes of the person making the LPA. Without a solicitor to provide independent advice and consultation on the contents and their wide-ranging legal implications, there is a danger of producing an LPA that is not fit for purpose.
While it is great to see so many people understanding the need for making an LPA, it is important to be aware of the risks involved in doing-it-yourself, below gives an outline of some of the pitfalls that can occur:
Increased risk of mistakes: Complicated application forms, even accompanied by guidance notes, can increase the risk of mistakes being made.
Unforeseen costs: If the forms are not completed correctly, they can be rejected by the Office of the Public Guardian (the body that registers LPAs) – resulting in re-submission charges.
Possibility for future rejection: Even if mistakes pass through the checking system, the LPA may be rejected in the future by banks, utility providers or medical professionals.
Higher risk of fraud or coercion: A legal professional acts as an important safeguard when creating an LPA, and their removal from the process can lead to an LPA being falsified, or the person making the LPA being persuaded to sign something they do not fully understand or are not comfortable with.
Omitting important wishes and preferences: It can be extremely daunting to think about what might happen if you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself. A vital part of a solicitor’s role is to provide counsel for an individual about their options and choices (for example, do you want your attorney to agree to life-sustaining treatment in the event of a medical crisis?). With DIY methods there is a danger that many wishes and preferences are not adequately expressed.
Complex situations can be overlooked: Depending on individual circumstances, there may be a number of instances where complex affairs, including any business interests the person making an LPA may have, are not considered.
The SFE’s study shows that consultation with a specialist LPA solicitor has many advantages over DIY methods when it comes to creating an LPA, and for the vast majority of people this remains the most effective and legally robust option for creating one.
One study participant who attempted to create her own LPA online said:
“I went as far as I could go with it, but I couldn’t finish it. “There is so much jargon in the forms, and I didn’t understand all the legal terminology. It was also a very, very long process – it took my son and me an entire day to read through all the information, and we still couldn’t complete the application. We both found it really frustrating”
After then consulting with a specialist solicitor, she said:
“It was such a relief to go through the application with a solicitor, after the terrible experience I’d had with the DIY kit. The solicitor explained everything so well and in a way that I could understand. She advised me to include my daughter as an attorney as well as my son, as well as nominating two back-ups – it hadn’t even dawned on me to have more than one person listed. Adding my daughter ended up being really useful, because it prompted her and my son to have a proper discussion about what each of them were able to do to help me in future. When the solicitor told me exactly what authority I’d be giving up, I realised how powerful the LPA is.”
At Pardoes Solicitors we have specialists on hand to guide you through the process of making an LPA and can explain each section in a way that you will understand as well as probe you to consider aspects that you may not have thought about.